AS THE two recent fracking disasters in Canada and California have shown, it is unrealistic to think that an industry of such scale, complexity and technological newness involving people, materials, skills, financial pressures and nature can ever be guaranteed to be safe.

And of all the threats of the chemicals used and their flowback and disposal must head the list.

In the US a list of the permitted chemicals in a state is available. In the UK, I am told by the EA it won’t be. Chemical information will only be available on a site by site basis. Information so far has been sparse using blanket terms like biocides (ie designed to kill living organisms! Like us?).

So ‘What if ’ you are damaged by chemicals? What help can you expect? Who will pay? We have, we are told, the best regulatory system in the world, but it is not set up to protect you, only the industry. In my 30 years as a chemical victim and part of the chemical injury helpline, one question was never answered: ‘Who helps us?’ So to which bodies might you reasonably turn for help? Here are a few examples of my experience: The chemical users. Asked if the timber treatment was safe and if I needed to move out: “No. Quite safe.” No statutory warning to avoid for 48 hours was displayed. I was told chemicals could not migrate.

They did, for nearly four years, through walls and belongings.

NHS. Response to my burning throat, eyes, skin,“Can’t see anything.” “These chemicals wouldn’t be approved if they weren’t safe.” (My GP). A phone around to local surgeries sometime later showed that none had or had heard of the ‘Guidance Notes on Pesticide Poisoning for Medical Practitioners’ (DoH) or were even interested, in most cases.

CCT (Committee on Toxicity). Of the 12 members assessing Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) 10 had chemical company connections. Unsurprisingly, MCS does not officially exist in the UK. The WHO list it as a serious illness.

In Britain it has never been good form to panic but it is simple good sense to ask “What if ?” in advance.

“Be prepared,” is still a useful motto.


Margaret Reichlin, Maccallum Road, Enham Alamein.